A Look at Filing for Child Support Modification

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Can I modify my child support order?

If you’re a party to a child support order, you may wonder if that order can ever be modified.  The answer is yes—Indiana allows, under certain circumstances, for modification of a child support order.  If you are going through a divorce, a custody proceeding, or attempting to establish paternity it may be important to remember this.  You can see how child support is calculated in one of our past blogs, How Child Support is Calculated in Indiana, but here we can take a look at when that number can be modified once it has been ordered.

Indiana Code 31-16-8-1 specifically addresses the circumstances that warrant a modification and establishes two different tests.

The first way a child support order can be modified is by showing a change of circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the original support order unreasonable.  There is no strict rule to determine what changes warrant the order unreasonable.  What if you lose your job?  What if one parent suddenly makes a lot more money than when the original order was put in to place?  What if the child suddenly becomes disabled or injured in such a way that continuing medical care is needed?  These are all events that may qualify an original child support order as unreasonable.

The second way a child support order can be modified is a two-prong test.  A petitioning party must show:

(1) that the party was ordered to pay an amount in child support that differs by more than twenty percent (20%) from the amount that would be ordered by applying the child support guidelines, and

(2) that the child support order that you are requesting to be modified was issued at least twelve (12) months before you are requesting the modification.
This second test must have both prongs met in order to qualify.  Some of the events discussed above may also be reasons that cause the amount to differ by more than 20%, the most obvious reason being a change of income for either party.

Are there other circumstances that could affect the answer to either of the two tests above?  Yes.  If you take a look at the previous blog linked above on calculating child support, you’ll see that there are many factors that are put in the calculation.  For example, the calculation looks at:

  1. Which parent is paying for health insurance?
  2. Which parent is paying for childcare costs?
  3. Does either parent have any subsequent children they are supporting?
  4. Does either parent have a prior-born child that they are now supporting? (This may only come in to play if you were not previously required to pay child support, but now you are and this could affect the calculation)
  5. Which parent is paying for controlled expenses?
  6. What if one parent moves far away and the amount of parenting time/overnights significantly changes as a result?

If any of the above factors change, this could mean your child support amount should be adjusted.  The key questions you need to be asking yourself are whether these changes are so substantial and continuing that the previous order is unreasonable or whether these changes mean the amount would differ by more than 20% of the original amount and it has been at least 12 months from the first order?  Here is a scenario:

Father is ordered to pay Mother $150 per week in child support and is awarded parenting time via the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, which is every other weekend and a weekly week-night visit.  Mother pays for healthcare and childcare.  Mother is the primary custodian, which means she is responsible for all controlled expenses.

If Mother and Father later decide they want to equally split custody and Father is paying all controlled expenses and healthcare, then it would no longer be reasonable for him to be paying the same $150 per week in child support because there has been a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing.  Father has significantly increased his parenting time and is paying for all controlled expenses and healthcare, which means Mother’s costs have significantly decreased.  Under this scenario, Father would most likely meet both tests under the statute because not only have the circumstances changed in that the original amount is unreasonable, but the original amount would likely differ by more than 20% of what he should be paying under the parents’ new arrangement.

There is a third way a child support order can be modified that isn’t mentioned in the statute and that’s by agreement.  If both parties can come to an agreement, then a modification can be put in place, however, most courts still require a petition for modification to be filed prior to approval of the agreement.   In any custody or support proceeding, a child support worksheet is also required to be submitted to the court and, if the amount of child support differs from what is on the worksheet, the agreement must reflect why the parties are agreeing to deviate from the worksheet.

The above tests may seem simple, but they can often times become complicated because each party is going to have differing opinions on the factors that go into the calculation.  These factors are going to play a major role in determining whether your situation warrants a modification and a court is going to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis.   If you think your child support order should be modified, give us a call 24/7/365 at (317) 870-0019 or email us at info@banksbrower.com.  The attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC are experienced in all areas of family law and can help you through the process of modifying your child support order.